Machinima Expo 2012: submissions open

Pooky Amsterdam has tapped me about this, and I’m happy to slip-in this post for her.

This year marks the 5th annual Machinima Expo, a three day virtual machinima festival which bridges Second Life and the real world. The Expo will be held over the weekend of the 17th-18th November 2012, and submissions are now open for those wishing to participate.

There is no maximum running time for entries to the event, but a couple of rules must be adhered to:

  • Entries must comprise at least 50% machinima
  • Entrants must not have previously submitted the film to the Expo.

Note that films do not have to be filmed in Second Life (or any other virtual world – although entries created in any virtual world are obviously welcome), just so long as they are at least 50% machinima. The closing date for submissions is September 30th 2012, and you can find the entry form on the Expo website.

A look at a couple of entries from last year’s event

The Expo itself will take place largely inside Second Life during the weekend of the 17th-18th November (venue to be confirmed) and films will be simultaneously streamed in-world and to the Expo website. As well as showing this year’s entries, the Expo will comprise:

  • An awards ceremony featuring a grand prize, plus three Jury prizes. This year’s prizes include sound effects collections, a full license of Lightwave 10, copies of iClone5 Pro and much more
  • Panel discussions, live filmmaker interviews, a keynote address and live presentations on the craft/art of making machinima
  • Workshops.

Additional details on events and event streaming will be posted on the Expo website nearer the weekend.

The Returning: a spiritual reconnection

Now closed

The Returning
The Returning

I love Marcus Inkpen’s work. The Looking Glass is one of my favourite regions to visit, and I’m massively tempted by his Floating Victorian Home. In mid-June LEA opened a full sim installation featuring Marcus’ work, and I’ve finally managed to get myself over to see it.

The Returning is described as exploring “the spiritual connection we once experienced, as an integral part of life, now lost – but lying in wait for our return” – and it is simply enchanting.

There is a rich mix of cultural elements here, most of them seeming to come from Asia, but also with some European / Middle Eastern elements as well. You arrive at a wooden landing stage facing a lush rain forest-like environment, split by meandering waterways. Where you go from here is up to you – follow the wooden piers around the small lake to the woodlands, or take a row-boat. There are only two building here, and whichever route you take will eventually lead you to them.

The Returning
The Returning

The main building carries echoes of many historical sites; some have compared it with Angkor Wat – and the similarity is strong. For me, and without wishing to sound like a cracked record, the building carries a strong Sri Lankan resonance, reminding me particularly of the great stupas and pools of Anuradhapura.

For me, the Sri Lankan element was certainly heightened by the fact the music stream accompanying the installation features pieces by Lakshman Joseph De Saram. Having the music stream on is not a vital part of a visit – if anything, I’d say that in parts it actually might detract from the overall atmosphere. However, I was curious as to what might be accompanying the installation and in what was undoubtedly a serendipitous moment, I turned media precisely as Beggar / Charles Is Dying from De Saram’s soundtrack for Bel Ami was playing – and so the mental association with Sri Lanka was cemented.

Inside the structure lay the deeper spiritual elements: manuscripts that appear to be from the Kabbalah, including what looks to be the Sēpher Yəṣîrâh; on the floor in the central chamber is a carving featuring the seven Chakras, adding a Hindu / Buddhist element, around which a pendulum slowly rotates.

The remaining building appears to be more western in style and design – almost a folly. It contains a device resembling an orrery, enticingly called Know Thyself. Around the walls are empty frames and pictures that appear to be from the 19th Century; perhaps another piritual echo – the memories of those who have passed before us.

Exploring the region will reveal strange incongruities. Alongside the “folly” run a set of power / telegraph wires; up on a hill you’ll find a US Postal Service mail box. Near the end of the reflecting pool at the front of the main building sits a pianola.  Are these random placements, or do they carry meaning themselves? You’ll have to decide, as I’m saying nothing.

I’m not sure how long The Returning will remain open. If you haven’t visited already, I urge you to do so – and don’t be surprised if you find me sitting in quiet contemplation by the reflecting pool or among the trees.

The Returning
The Returning


firestorm-logoWednesday July 11th saw the release of Firestorm Using the Linden Lab 3.3.3 viewer code base and bringing RLVa support up to 1.4.6, the release includes and extensive range of updates, improvements and changes. I don’t propose covering all of these in detail – that’s what release notes are for – but will attempt to give a broad flavour of what are likely to be the more popular changes and outline where you can find them.

Download and Installation

The download is 32.9Mb in size for Windows, and installation threw out no surprises. As per usual, I did a completely clean install – something that is actually strongly recommended for the release. If you’ve not performed a clean install of a viewer before, the Firestorm team have some notes to help you.


There are a number of updates to the menus, which can be seen in the table below:

Firestorm menu updates (click to enlarge)

The World menu gets two brand new options, the Sound Explorer and Asset Blacklist:

  • The Sound Explorer displays all current sound sources within audible range. The list will continue to update as new sounds are played. Sounds can be located, played locally for you to hear and can be blacklisted.  directly from the Sound Explorer. You can read more details in the Phoenix wiki
  • The Asset Blacklist works with an updated object de-render. With release 4.1.1, objects can now be “permanently” de-rendered (on previous releases, any object de-rendered would re-appear in your view following a teleport or re-log). With this release, all objects  so treated are listed in the Asset Blacklist, from where they can be re-rendered if required. You can read more details on this in the Phoenix wiki

Vaalith Jinn’s Local Bitmap Browser has been removed from the Build menu because this release of Firestorm sees the incorporation of Vaalith’s Local Textures functionality, as contributed to Linden Lab (which is also available for clothing and skins uploads). However, all those who use Temporary Textures need not panic – that option is still available as well.

Preferences Changes

There has been further rationalisation of the various Preferences tabs. I’ve summarised the updates in a PDF file for ease of reference, and will focus on the notable changes here.

The most significant additions to Preferences are the new Crash Reports and OpenSim tabs.

New Crash Reports tab

The Crash Reports tab offers an enhanced means of supplying crash reports to the Firestorm team and includes a link to the team’s Privacy Policy.

The Firestorm team recently repeated their commitment to support of the OpenSim environment, and this tab can been seen as evidence of that. However, given Linden Lab’s requirements around the Havok sub-licence arrangement, this tab is liable to be vanishing from future “SL flavours” of Firestorm once the new sub-licencing comes into effect.

OpenSim Grid Manager

One important element in Preferences that needs additional emphasis is the option to Enable Lossy Texture Compression, found under GRAPHICS->HARDWARE SETTINGS. This enables texture compression during rendering, which can give improved performance and a smaller graphics memory footprint – but at the cost of lower quality rendered textures which may end up pixellated. As such, it is not recommended that this be enabled unless you have little video memory on your system.


There are two new buttons making their début with this release:

  • Fly – a dedicated button to enable you to easily fly
  • Region/Estate button – provides access to the Region / Estate floater (WORLD->REGION DETAILS or ALT-R).

Additionally, buttons now display their keyboard shortcuts in their tool tips.


In addition to the options that can be set for various floaters in the updated Preferences (see the PDF file linked-to above), a number of the floaters themselves have new or revised options:

  • AO floater: A new safeguard added to the DELETE THIS ANIMATION SET button so that everything that’s not an animation link is moved to “lost and found” to prevent accidental deletion
  • Appearance floater–>Edit Outfit – now includes the Local Textures picker (from the gears button)  for testing self-made skins and clothes
  • Conversations floater
    • Contacts tab uses new coloured icons for options (Friends can see when you’re online, etc).
  • Build floater:
    • Now includes the Local Textures picker
    • Allows colours to be defined as hex values as well as RGB and will generate LSL vectors
Colours can now be defined using hex values, and have LSL vectors generated

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